On the Morning Joe program today, I heard an interesting idea floated by Joe Scarborough and heartily endorsed by the panel, including the political realist, Ed Rendell. Scarborough suggested that Obama make a passage of Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan a centerpiece of his campaign. This suggestion reminded me of Harry Truman’s 1948 campaign in which he called Congress back into session and presented them with an ambitious agenda on health care, education and civil rights. Although most of it didn’t pass, Truman was able to reinforce his central political message of a “do-nothing” Congress.
While much is different in 2012, there are some interesting parallels to 1948. Like then, now, much of Washington, the capital markets, and many major business initiatives are in a state of suspended animation, awaiting the results of the election. Meanwhile, the sword of Damocles — the debt ceiling fight and sequestration — hangs over our politics and our economy. As both Ed and I — and countless other bloggers and commentators — have bemoaned, the election, as it is being waged today, offers no prospect of clarity or mandate on any of these issues.
So, in this context, I like Scarborough’s idea. Instead of waiting for a reelection, which is uncertain anyway, and will offer no mandate, why doesn’t Obama push a big, popular and important solution to some of our economic woes right now? He could campaign across the country, and as Scarborough pointed out, really put Republicans on the spot while appealing to independents and moderate Democrats who believe we need a dramatic and balanced approach — new revenue and entitlement cuts — to reduce the deficit. Morever, he could package the Simpsons-Bowles plan with his jobs bill and say that the country doesn’t need to wait for an election to do what is right. My guess is, if the President did this, he would have almost as much fun as Harry Truman did in 1948 and he might be a lot more successful, not just in winning reelection, but in doing something big for the country.